After a solid first month of the season, the Houston Astros have rolled into the month of May in good shape.
Cruising along with a comfortable cushion over the Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Angels in the AL West, the Astros have put together a combo of offense and defense that keeps folks in Minute Maid Park seats.
Despite a shaky start on the road to open the season, the Astros came home and launched a 10-game winning streak, including a home-stand sweep of the New York Yankees.
Their in-state rivals and the Central Division leading Minnesota Twins seemed to be the Astros only roadblocks in the early going – they were 3-4 vs the Texas Rangers going into this weekend’s home stand against them, and 3-4 against the Twins.
But they took a chunk out of the Rangers during the weekend series to even that score. It makes the rivalry an honest-to-goodness tickets seller when they meet again in the heat of July.
Justin Verlander has shown no signs of letting up in this his 15th season. He’s 6-1, with a 2.55 ERA, and at age 36, that’s production enough for a half season.
Wade Miley (3-2, 3.18 ERA) is performing well, but Gerrit Cole (4.17 ERA) could do better as the No. 2 starter.
Brad Peacock has proven he can step into a starting role. He pitched seven scoreless innings in a 9-0 win over Kansas City on Wednesday, a performance that included a career high 12 strikeouts.
Roberto Osuna has nine saves in 16 appearances and a 0.55 ERA as the go-to man in the pen.
The Houston batting is coming around with the warm weather. They may not be at the high-water mark in run scoring, ranking 9th in the league.
But with a league-leading .274 team batting average and a home run total that ranks second in the majors, the runs are certain to come.
George Springer is pressing for the league home run title, with 13 as of the weekend. Alex Bregman (10), Michael Brantley and Jose Altuve (9 each) have added to a real ticket selling lineup.
Everyone has been talking about adding a left-handed hitter at first base, where Yuli Gurriel resides with a respectable .269 average.
When Altuve pulled up on Friday with a hamstring problem, the need for some sort of infielder may have become more urgent.
Tyler White can fill in for Altuve, but the Astros have no other designated first baseman on the roster.
With the score settled against the Rangers this weekend, the Astros take the road for six games, including three in Boston against a Red Sox side that ended the Astros season last year.
But the Astros also close out the month of May with an attractive home stand against the Red Sox and Chicago Cubs. The Sox hit town on Friday, May 24 for a weekend series, and the Cubs arrive that Monday for a midweek visit. They are night games that can still offer some good seats, if you buy tickets now.
Those series will likely be crucial to the Astros being in good shape for a June that opens in Oakland and Seattle.